Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pepperoni, Mozzarella & Broccoli Pasta Salad

I have been making this for a very long time and can't believe I haven't blogged it before. My family got this recipe when my sister Heather made it in Home Ec or Foods class at school and then she made it for us at home and we loved it. Now I make it for my family.

The dressing has the right amount of tang and the veggies give it a nice crunch. This is one of my favorite pasta salad recipes and now it can be yours.

Pepperoni, Mozzarella & Broccoli Pasta Salad

1/3 c. oil
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. cider vinegar
1/2 t. salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 t. dried oregano

1/2 lb. rigatoni (or other pasta)
1 1/2 c. broccoli florets
6 oz. pepperoni, cut into pieces
3/4 c. green pepper, chopped
3 T. black olives, sliced
1/4 c. red onion, chopped
1/4 c. carrot, chopped
3 oz. mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 T. Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain; rinse with cool water. 

Break broccoli into small pieces. Place in microwaveable dish and add 1/2 cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH for about 3 minutes. 

Put pepperoni, green pepper, olives, onion, carrot and mozzarella in a large bowl. Add broccoli and pasta and toss to combine.

Whisk dressing ingredients together. Add to salad and toss to blend. Serve immediately or refrigerate to serve later. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Caramel Frosted Fudgy Chocolate Cookies

Most of the things I imagine look so much better in my head than they turn out. Okay, like everything. And these cookies are no exception. I knew what flavors I wanted to combine and wanted it to look pretty like from a bakery. I took different parts from different recipes and combined them for this sticky, chocolaty cookie. They didn't look perfect, but they were rich and delicious. I especially liked them after microwaving them for a quick 6-8 seconds. Mmmm melty goodness!

In addition to the recipe I put together below, I cut out some chocolate circles and put them on top.  After I did it, I noticed they just look like chocolate chips pressed in upside down, which would have been faster. 

Caramel Frosted Fudgy Chocolate Cookies
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1 (3.7 - 3.9-oz.) pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
1/4 c. cocoa
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
Pinch salt
1 (12-oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
Caramel Frosting:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/8 c. milk
1 - 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Caramel Drizzle:
7 oz. caramels
1/4 c. evaporated milk (or water) 

Dipping Chocolate
Using paddle attachment, in mixing bowl combine the butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed. After scraping down the sides of the bowl, add the pudding mix, and cocoa, and mix on low just until combined.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low just until combined, about 1 minute.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the chocolate chips, and mix on low only until blended.

Using a large cookie scoop or a 1/4-cup measuring cup form into balls of dough, and flatten slightly. Place mounds on a tray and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days. (Refrigerating is important for the cookies to keep their shape.)

Preheat oven to 350º, Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray. Place cookie dough on baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart and bake for about 10 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set and look slightly underdone.  Cool cookies on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes before serving. 

In a saucepan, mix brown sugar, butter and milk over low heat until brown sugar dissolves. 

Increase heat to medium and cook for 3-6 minutes without stirring until the middle is bubbling or until it looks amber.

Pour into a mixer bowl and let cool. Add powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time with beaters going until frosting is as thick as desired. 

Caramel Drizzle:
Combine caramels and evaporated milk (or water) in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave more if needed, just until caramels are melted. Stir until smooth.

Spread frosting on cooled cookies. Dip one side into melted dipping chocolate. Garnish with chocolate circles or chips if desired. Drizzle with caramel.  

Monday, March 26, 2018

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Mini Cheesecakes

My last post was a cheesecake and I didn't realize that until I started putting this one together. I made these for the first time the other day. I love peanut butter pie and these cheesecakes at Sweet Spicy Kitchen looked similar. They're pretty and they are mini, which I always love.

On her blog, Dragana said that she used baking cup liners that are 2.55 inch in diameter and 2.15 inch in height. My spring-form pan is mini muffin sized (much smaller) so I made 12 of them into the very mini cheesecakes and then put the rest into a small spring-form pan.

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Mini Cheesecakes

1 c. graham crackers crumbs
4 T. melted butter
10 oz. semisweet chopped chocolate
1 ½ c. heavy cream, at room temperature
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ c. powdered sugar
½ t. vanilla extract
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ c. powdered sugar
⅔ c. peanut butter
⅔ c. heavy cream
½ t. vanilla extract
6 oz. semisweet chopped chocolate
6 T. heavy cream, at room temperature
¼ t. oil
Mini chocolate chips
Peanuts, chopped

Prepare 12 larger paper baking cups or mini spring-form pan. Put graham crackers in the
food processor until they are fine crumbs.

Add melted butter and stir well. Spread evenly in the paper baking cups and press with a
solid object, like a glass to make solid layer. Set aside.

Melt chocolate following the instructions on the package. Add heavy cream and mix well.
Set aside. In a medium sized dish mix cream cheese and powdered sugar with an mixer,
at a minimum speed, for about a minute.

Add vanilla and melted chocolate and mix until well combined. Spread evenly over the
graham cracker layer, with a spoon. Leave it in the fridge to cool.

In a medium sized dish mix cream cheese and powdered sugar with an mixer at a
minimum speed, add vanilla, peanut butter and heavy cream.

Mix until smooth. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge and spread evenly over
chocolate cheesecake filling. Put it in the fridge.

Melt chocolate. Add heavy cream and oil and stir well. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge. Pour chocolate topping over the cheesecake with a spoon. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate overnight before serving

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Japanese Cheesecake

My son Alex, who was in Japan for 2 years, has asked me a couple of times to make Japanese cheesecake. I've never had it before, so I didn't know what it was supposed to look or taste like and the recipe was a little intimidating to me with the soft peak egg whites folded in. Today was a big family party and Alex suggested this for his dessert, so I decided to give it a try and used the recipe at Run Away Rice. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be and we like it. Even my pickiest child liked it. 

It's not very sweet and it's not like the cheesecake we're used to. It's more like a soufflé or spongecake with cream cheese mixed in. Alex had only eaten it plain, but I stirred up some berry topping and served it on the side. 

Eggs separate better when cold, so it's best to separate them and then let them get to room temperature. This recipe calls for low-fat milk, but I used skim milk. The water bath helps with even baking and helps avoid cracking on the top. This recipe makes an 8-inch cake, but while it cools, it shrinks a bit. I was a little surprised at how little the cake was, but it's cute and yummy.

Japanese Cheesecake

5 large eggs, divided, room temperature
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. low-fat milk
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. flour
2 T. cornstarch

Line the bottom and side of the springform pan with parchment paper. Wrap the springform pan with several sheets of foil, sealing it completely. Fill a large baking pan halfway with water. Place it in the oven on the lowest rack. Preheat the oven to 315°.

Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add ¼ cup sugar and mix until smooth. Add milk and lemon juice and beat for 1 minute. Add the flour and cornstarch and mix for another minute. Finally add the egg yolks and mix for 1 more minute.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites on Low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to Medium Low and beat for another 30 seconds or until foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to Medium High and beat until the egg whites just start to thicken. Add 1/4 cup sugar gradually. Continue beating until the egg whites reach the soft peaks stage (approximately 3 minutes using a stand mixer).

To the cream cheese mixture, add 1/3 of the egg whites and gently fold into the batter until mostly incorporated. Add another 1/3 and gently fold. Add the remaining 1/3 and gently fold.

Pour the batter into the lined springform pan. Spread the batter evenly into the pan and smooth out the top using a spatula. Holding the side of the pan, gently lift and drop the pan on the counter a few times to remove any big air bubbles.
Place the springform pan into the water bath and bake the cake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Check the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. It should come out clean. Bake the cake for an additional 10-15 minutes to brown the top if not browned.
Turn off the oven and open the oven door slightly (about 2-3 inches) and let cheesecake cool in the oven for 1 hour.
Remove cheesecake from the pan. Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Dust with powdered sugar and serve alone or with fresh fruit or favorite cheesecake topping. Cover and refrigerate to store for up to a week.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Skinny Caramel Apple Dip

It's a miracle! I found a treat that all 4 of us like. That doesn't happen very often. I have two children who don't eat fruit much, but they ate some with a bit of this to dip it in, and there's less fat in this than in a regular caramel dip. Apples, strawberries, and grapes have all tasted great. This is from The Cookie Rookie

I used a sugar-free caramel ice cream topping from Smucker's that is smaller than 16 ounces, but it worked well. We like semi-sweet chocolate chips, so I used that instead of white chocolate chips. I ended up mixing some mini chocolate chips into the dip after I took the photo. 

Skinny Caramel Apple Dip 

1 (8-oz.) pkg. fat-free cream cheese, softened
6 oz. fat-free or light whipped topping (about half of a tub)
1 (16-oz.) jar caramel sauce
1/2 c. chocolate or white chocolate chips, optional
Apple slices, for dipping

With electric mixer, blend cream cheese, whipped topping, and caramel sauce until well combined. Mix in white chocolate chips.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for about an hour to allow to set more. Serve with apple slices (or other fruit).

Sunday, February 11, 2018

During Times of Rejection

I'm so behind. I have a long list of books to blog about and recipes to post, but rarely take the time to blog anymore. Friday I re-read a book that I read several months ago and intended to post about. I decided that since so much time had passed, I needed to read it again to I could refresh my memory. It turns out that this was a good time to read it again for new situations that have arisen in life, and I took even more notes this time around.

It's called Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst. She's the President of a Christian ministry called Proverbs 31 Ministries and has written several books and has a blog. The book talks about times she was rejected or not wanted by a boyfriend, friend, colleagues and in other situations. To learn more about her, I went to her blog. In the book she talks about her husband. In recent blog posts, she explains that her husband was unfaithful and they were getting a divorce, and also that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like many of us, she has many heavy burdens placed upon her all at one.

While some of Lysa's experiences that she shares in the book are not events that happened to me and almost seemed light compared to my own, the perspective we need to have during any rejection is the same. I have felt all the feelings that she has felt, being hurt and rejected in different ways. Lysa helps us change how we think and act when in those situations, feeling filled with God's love and knowing it is enough.

I won't share all of my notes with you, even though it's really hard not to. I'm sure things that touched me because of my experiences would not necessarily be what affects you the most. You should read the book. It's a quick read. I read it in one day. Many libraries have a copy. I'd love for you to come back and comment what you thought about it after you do.

Lysa talks about how much the rejection hurts in the moment, but also about how it affects us in our lives and in new relationships. "Today's rejections, big or subtle, are like stealth bombs that zing straight to my core, locating hurts from my past and making them agonizingly present all over again."

We let the words others say and the words we think they're thinking about us become our own negative self-talk. I know there are messages that I struggle to get out of my head. "Rejection isn't just an emotion we feel. It's a message that's sent to the core of who we are, causing us to believe lies about ourselves, others, and God. We connect an event from today to something harsh someone once said. That person's line becomes a label. The label becomes a lie. And the lie becomes a liability in how we think about ourselves and interact in every future relationship."

Stability is one thing that I have wanted in my life and want to give to my children. In many ways, that stability has eluded me, but my Father in Heaven is always there, wherever I am, in whatever circumstance. I know His expectations and promises do not change. "We're all desperate to anchor our souls to something we can trust won't change.

"...When my identity is tied to circumstances I become extremely insecure because circumstances are unpredictable and ever-changing.

"I was created by God, who formed me because He so much loved the very thought of me. When I was nothing, He saw something and declared it good. Very good. And very loved.

"Therefore, I can bring the atmosphere of love into every situation I face. I don't have to wait for it, hope for it, or try to earn it. I simply bring the love I want. Then I'm not so tempted to flirt with the world, hoping for approval, because I have the real thing with God."

Sometimes we feel like we have to earn love by our actions, and sometimes we are told that straight out. Either way, it is wrong. That is not love and will not turn into love.  We must learn to feel God's love and to love ourselves.

Lysa shares the story of a time that she was left at a table alone in a crowded room and she felt very alone. Then she said a thought popped into her head, "You aren't set aside, Lysa. You are set apart... To be set aside is to be rejected... To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation." We can all take a look and see how our Heavenly Father can use our trials, even those rejections by people, to make us better people and to prepare us for a future where we will need to be strong and have a sure faith.

"The enemy loves to take our rejection and twist it into a raw, irrational fear that God really doesn't have a good plan for us...Satan knows what consumes us controls us. Therefore the more consumed we are with rejection, the more he can control our emotions, our thinking, and our actions....That's the exact place where panic starts to replace peace."

Speaking of the disciples' fear when they see Jesus walking on water, Lysa says that the word terrified comes from the Greek word tarasso, which means, "to set in motion what needs to remain still". I know when I am feeling scared, I panic and do not remain still. I am getting better, sometimes, but I still need to improve at remaining still and letting what needs to be still, be still.

I am having a really hard time not sharing so much more, but I will end with one more thought from the book.

"The pain isn't the enemy. Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists. Pain is the reminder that the real enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination knowing there's healing on the other side.

"And in the in-between? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His.

"The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing." We all know methods of numbing the pain -- drugs, alcohol, sex, self-harm, over-eating or under-eating, and many more.

"We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us. If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us. It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It allows the rejection of a person to steal the best potential from every other relationship we desperately want and need.

"It even steals the best in our relationship with God. Because instead of Him being our hope, we misplace our hope in people who can't wholly love a desperately broken version of us. Only God can do that.

I'm always grateful for reminders of the eternal perspective I need when going through trials and feeling alone. It's important to be cognizant of who wants me to feel lonely and rejected, and of the reality that I am loved by my creator. This book left me looking for other books she has written, so I might be reviewing another one in the future.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Fangs Giveaway

    The winner is....Heather. I know it's such a surprise. I will get your prize to you. I hope you like it. 

I haven't done a music blog post for way, way too long considering how much I love to go to local music shows. I've seen these 4 guys twice recently and they are talented and lots of fun. The Fangs are an indie band with catchy, original music that has a solid beat and memorable lyrics. I really like their original songs, but they are excellent (really, excellent) at covers too. 
    You can find them on FacebookSpotifyInstagram and all over. I found them at Velour and then at the BYU Art After Dark at the MOA.  

Sadly, I have a crappy camera on my phone. 

Artists spend so long learning and honing their instrumental and vocal craft, writing songs, practicing, spending money on instruments and equipment and studio time, and then they have to play for free so often to get their name out there. I try to do my little part to support local bands, so I bought a whole 2 copies of their EP called Anthem. (I did say "little part".) I know most people don't listen to CDs anymore, so go buy their music on iTunes if you prefer. Or book them for a super fun party that everyone will love! 

Back to the CDs... One of the CDs I bought is for me and I've already listened to it over and over. The other copy is to give away to one of you! I'll tell you how to enter below. 

The Fangs are working on new music and said they'd be releasing some videos soon and an LP (if I remember right, or maybe another EP) in February. At their shows, they sang some of their newer songs that aren't on the Anthem EP. They are exceptional and I can't wait to be able to hear those again and again too. Please don't judge them and their talent by my videos with bad audio and visual. 

Here's what they say about themselves:

Emmett Florence - Lead Vocals
Jake Joyner - Lead Guitar
Noah Siddoway - Bass Guitar
Brad Bennett - Drums

The Fangs are an indie rock band from Provo, UT, exploring influences from new wave, theatric rock, and electronic music. The Fangs aim to write and record music that is upbeat, soulful, and imaginative. Over the past year, the band has experimented with different performance aliases (including Kindred Dead and Thrillionaire) before settling on their current name, look, and sound. The Fangs regularly augment their shows with additional musicians, samples, and backing tracks for a massive live sound.

After seeing his sister and cousin help found Imagine Dragons, Florence was inspired to begin writing and performing his own songs with whatever bands he could piece together in the vibrant Provo music scene. Florence draws inspiration from contemporary alt rock acts including The Killers, Coldplay, and Fun., as well as rock legends like The Beatles and Queen.

Emmett's hair comes down

To enter to win the CD Anthem, visit The Fangs on a social media platform and then come back and leave a comment on this blog post. Tell me where you visited them and whatever random thought you had about the awesome group. I'll chose a winner on Monday, November 27 at 8:00 pm MST.

Pepperoni, Mozzarella & Broccoli Pasta Salad

I have been making this for a very long time and can't believe I haven't blogged it before. My family got this recipe when my sister...